Kim and Brenda Pirie decided long ago that they wouldn’t put off seeing the world until retirement.
They travelled extensively before Brenda’s breast cancer diagnosis, and after her disease metastasized their trips became even more meaningful. Now, Kim is donating $50,000 to support the development of a new cancer centre in Nanaimo to bring care closer to the place Brenda loved most: home.
“I’m going in. Are you coming with me?” Kim recalls Brenda shouting to him across a group of slackjawed tourists watching 50 to 60 reef sharks circling in the blue water beneath their boat in Bora Bora.
“She just started doing things like that,” he says of Brenda’s spontaneity after her 2014 diagnosis, which required surgery, chemo and radiation, and resulted in depression so severe she required psychiatric care.
After meeting Brenda in the ‘80s at a “big, fat Greek wedding,” that rivalled the movie, Kim quickly decided that he’d accompany her anywhere. And so, he hopped into the shark-infested waters after her.
“If Brenda wasn’t afraid, I wasn’t going to be either. We had such a good time. At that point we felt that the cancer was in the past.”
Unfortunately, in 2016 they discovered a node in Brenda’s lung and she underwent another invasive surgery. Six months later, her cancer was deemed inoperable. The good news, says Kim, is Brenda was put on a chemotherapy pill which was packable and only required three-week follow-ups at BC Cancer.
They made the most of this. Travelling to Mexico, New York, New England and the Maritimes. A family trip to visit their son Brad on Baffin Island. A cruise across the Pacific. The Okanagan. San Francisco. Hawaii. Las Vegas. In March 2020, another cruise was cut short by COVID-19.
Brenda, like the rest of the world, stayed close to home for the next two years. Tending to her beloved garden or at her “happy place,” their trailer in Yellow Point. She and Kim took one last cruise to Alaska in May 2022 where a much weakened Brenda watched the glaciers float by from their cabin’s deck.
Three months later she passed away at home with Kim, Brad and their daughter Lindsay, who had become a nurse at Nanaimo Regional Hospital during her mom’s illness.
While Brenda loved to travel, even the short trips to BC Cancer – Victoria for radiation or BC Cancer – Vancouver for diagnostics were grueling, says Kim. After donors in the community helped bring the first PET/CT scanner to the Island in 2019, Kim was also inspired to support cancer care closer to home.
“I said if they ever announce a BC Cancer centre in Nanaimo I’ll donate $50,000.” It’s a venture that Brenda would have jumped in with both feet, he says. “And, of course, I’d have followed.”